HAVERHILL — Aaron Deveau told Haverhill police he was trying to avoid rear-ending the car in front of him — not texting — when his car swerved across the center line and collided head-on with a car traveling in the opposite direction, fatally injuring the driver of the other car.
Deveau, 18, is on trial in Haverhill District Court on charges that include negligent motor vehicle homicide and causing injury in a crash while texting and driving. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges in the Feb. 20, 2011 crash that killed Donald Bowley, 55, of Danville, N.H. Bowley died of severe brain injuries 18 days after the crash.
The jury today was shown a 17-minute audio- and videotaped statement Deveau gave to police after the crash on River Street.
During the interview, Haverhill Police Officer Wayne Tracey asked Deveau if he was texting at the time of the crash, which a prosecutors say happened at 2:36 p.m. Deveau told police he was not texting at the time.
However, Deveau later handed over his cellphone to Tracey. With Deveau’s help, Tracey checked when texting was last done on the phone—and it showed that Deveau received two messages, one at 2:34 p.m. and a second at 2:35 p.m.
Deveau told police that he wasn’t sure why he drifted across the center line on River Street that day. “I don’t know why I went into the left lane,’’ Deveau said. “I shouldn’t have gone that way.’’
Deveau also told police that as he was driving, he looked briefly away from the road and then looked back up to see the car in front of him had put on its brakes,. He said he was driving about 40 miles an hour at the time.
Deveau said he reacted to the car suddenly stopping in front of him.
“I didn’t want to rear-end the lady in front of me,’’ he said.
As the interview neared its end, Deveau had a question for the police. “If anything happens to them, if one of them passes away, what will happen to me?” he asked.
Under cross-examination by Deveau’s defense attorney, Joseph Lussier, Tracey acknowledged that it was possible that Deveau never read the text messages sent to his phone just before the crash.
Tracey’s cross-examination was abruptly halted when Deveau said he was “about to pass out’’ if not allowed to use the bathroom.
Earlier today, Tracey described what he found on River Street when he was one of the first responders on the scene.
“In my 7 ½ years, I can say that was probably the worst crash I’ve seen,’’ Tracey testified.
He also described Deveau’s behavior. “He appeared to be tired,’’ Tracey said. “A bit sluggish.”
Tracey said that Deveau’s mother arrived at the crash scene, became hysterical, and repeatedly tried to enter into area marked off as a crime scene by police, even once clambering over a snowbank in an effort to get around the officers.
Deveau, who was 17 at the time of the crash, is facing an unusual charge: violating the new state law that makes it a crime for a driver to text while behind the wheel when a person is injured during a crash.